Sharon Lintz left her favourite fancy grocery stores and the slow Sunday mornings of the Southern US for the bubbling café culture and sultry shores of Tel Aviv, Israel. After nearly four years of living abroad, she gives us a glimpse into her life in the nation's nightlife capital.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Charlotte, North Carolina
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Tel Aviv
Q: How long have you lived in Israel?
A: Three and a half years
Q: Did you move with a spouse/ children?
Q: Why did you move? What do you do?
A: I came on vacation many times and loved the lifestyle, so I decided to stay.
About Tel Aviv
Q: What do you enjoy most about Tel Aviv? How's the quality of life in Israel?
A: I live two minutes from the beach; need I say more?
Tel Aviv has a laid-back attitude but is still a very intense city with a very direct culture. Though it's large, you still get the feeling that you know everyone – so it's manageable.
You can have an incredibly high quality of life, but it's extremely expensive to live here. Tel Aviv is very modern – good healthcare, lots of cafés, restaurants, university graduates etc.
However, the level of luxury is very different. What is taken as upper-crust isn't what I'm used to at home. Things are much more streamlined here. By no means do I mean that I'm missing out on things in my life, but I definitely get by comfortably with less than I used to living in the States.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: It's nice that people are very direct, but for a Southerner, it can come across as harsh or abrupt. The salaries are, on average, low compared to the cost of living, which makes it challenging. The work week here is Sunday to Friday, and I really miss leisurely Sunday mornings. I also miss huge fancy-schmancy grocery stores with sushi stands and pizzerias inside!
Q: Is Tel Aviv safe?
About living in Israel
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Tel Aviv as an expat?
A: In the centre or the northern end of town.
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Israel?
A: Less than what I am used to… You can find nice apartments, but they are disproportionately expensive.
Q: What's the cost of living in Israel compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: The cost of living in Israel is high compared to North Carolina. Eating out and drinking out are particularly expensive. Rent is disproportionately high, as are many groceries and toiletries.
Q: What are the locals like? Do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: Some are great, and some aren't so great – just like anywhere else. The stereotypical Israeli is very straightforward, warm and hospitable. They are quick to invite you to their families' homes for dinner – and sincerely mean it. That said, my closest friends are Anglos, and I'm guessing that at the end of the day, common childhood experiences and language are pretty important. My boyfriend is Israeli, and I spend lots of time with his friends (some of them are my friends too), and they are genuine, caring, down-to-earth, and determined.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? What advice can you give other expats on connecting with people in Tel Aviv?
A: It's fairly easy to meet new people in Tel Aviv- whether it's by going out or taking classes. I recommend studying Hebrew at Ulpan (Hebrew language schools that can be found all over the country). So many people who are new (or old) to the country study there, and it's really social.
Lifestyle in Tel Aviv
Q: Describe your typical weekend in your city. What are the basic highlights?
A: Usually, I go to the market on Friday morning, yoga or the beach in the afternoon, and Friday evenings are either spent over a huge meal with friends or my boyfriend's family. Saturday is relaxed as all stores are closed for the Sabbath (not all restaurants), so I do a lot of walking around, visiting friends, travelling, beach etc.
Q: What is the nightlife in Tel Aviv like? What do expats do in the evenings?
A: Tel Aviv has an amazing nightlife! Cafés are full all day and night, and bars and clubs are full every night of the week. There are lots of gatherings, political activities, social action committees, etc., where expats can get involved as well.
Q: Are there any clubs, groups or societies that make it easier to meet people? How can expats start to socialise in your city?
A: Lots of organisations to get involved with and lots of online tools to find such events, such as Telalivit.com, Jaanglo and Taanglo, Tastetlv, etc.
Culture in Israel
Q: Do you speak the local language? Is it difficult to get by if you don't?
A: I happen to speak Hebrew; however, it is easy to get by without it.
Q: Did you find any customs or examples of etiquette strange when you first arrived? Can you describe them?
A: Not necessarily strange; however, people say please and thank you less and push and shove in lines a bit more. Actually, in many places, there is no such thing as a line – it's more of a free-for-all, which can be pretty frustrating.
Q: What was the hardest part about adapting to your new city? Why?
A: Although it's easy to get by in English, it is frustrating not to be able to communicate 100 percent and say exactly what you want to say sometimes because of the language barrier, so be patient.
Q: Is there any other advice you'd like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Be patient and take deep breaths. Bureaucracy in Israel, like most places, is a nightmare, but everything gets sorted in the end.
~Interviewed February 2011